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Industrial Hygiene-Read the full OSHA Publication! This is just the highlights!
"Industrial hygiene is the science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers' injury or illness. Industrial hygienists use environmental monitoring and analytical methods to detect the extent of worker exposure and employ engineering, work practice controls, and other methods to control potential health hazards."
The environment and its relation to worker health was recognized as early as the fourth century BC when Hippocrates noted lead toxicity in the mining industry. In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar, perceived health risks to those working with zinc and sulfur. He devised a face mask made from an animal bladder to protect workers from exposure to dust and lead fumes. In the second century AD, the Greek physician, Galen, accurately described the pathology of lead poisoning and also recognized the hazardous exposures of copper miners to acid mists.
In the Middle Ages, guilds worked at assisting sick workers and their families. In 1556 the German scholar, Agricola, advanced the science of industrial hygiene even further when, in his book De Re Metallica, he described the diseases of miners and prescribed preventive measures. The book included suggestions for mine ventilation and worker protection, discussed mining accidents, and described diseases associated with mining occupations such as silicosis.
In 1700 Bernardo Ramazzini, known as the "father of industrial medicine," published in Italy the first comprehensive book on industrial medicine, De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (The Diseases of Workmen).
In 1743 Ulrich Ellenborg published a pamphlet on occupational diseases and injuries among gold miners. Ellenborg also wrote about the toxicity of carbon monoxide, mercury, lead, and nitric acid.
In England in the 18th century, Percival Pott, was a major force in getting the British Parliament to pass the Chimney-Sweepers Act of 1788.
The passage of the English Factory Acts beginning in 1833 marked the first effective legislative acts in the field of industrial safety.
In the early 20th century, U. S. Dr. Alice Hamilton, led efforts to improve industrial hygiene. She observed industrial conditions first hand and startled mine owners, factory managers, and state officials with evidence that there was a correlation between worker illness and their exposure to toxins.
In 1908, the public's awareness of occupationally related diseases stimulated the passage of compensation acts for certain civil employees. States passed the first workers' compensation laws in 1911. And in 1913, the New York Department of Labor and the Ohio Department of Health established the first state industrial hygiene programs.
The U.S. Congress has passed three landmark pieces of legislation relating to safeguarding workers' health: (1) the Metal and Nonmetallic Mines Safety Act of 1966, (2) the Federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, and (3) the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (Act).
OSHA and IH
Under the Act, OSHA develops and sets mandatory occupational safety and health requirements applicable to the more than 6 million workplaces in the U.S. OSHA relies on, among many others, industrial hygienists to evaluate jobs for potential health hazards.
Industrial hygienists, or IHs, are trained to anticipate, recognize, evaluate, and recommend controls for environmental and physical hazards that can affect the health and well-being of workers.
OSHA also employs industrial hygienists who assist in setting up field enforcement procedures, and who issue technical interpretations of OSHA regulations and standards. Industrial hygienists analyze, identify, and measure workplace hazards or stressors that can cause sickness, impaired health, or significant discomfort in workers through chemical, physical, ergonomic, or biological exposures. Two roles of the OSHA industrial hygienist are to spot those conditions and help eliminate or control them through appropriate measures.
The industrial hygienist inspects, researches, or analyzes how the particular chemicals or physical hazards at that worksite affect worker health. If a situation hazardous to health is discovered, the industrial hygienist recommends the appropriate corrective actions.
Industrial hygienists recognize that engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are the primary means of reducing employee exposure to occupational hazards. Engineering controls minimize employee exposure by either reducing or removing the hazard at the source or isolating the worker from the hazards.
To be effective in recognizing and evaluating on-the-job hazards and recommending controls, industrial hygienists must be familiar with the hazards' characteristics. Major job risks can include air contaminants, and chemical, biological, physical, and ergonomic hazards.
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